How Witnessing Domestic Violence Affects Children

April 23rd, 2018 by Tad Nelson in Domestic Violence

While they may not experience the same physical pain that a direct victim of abuse does, the impacts of domestic violence on children who witness it are no less severe. “Witnessing” may involve child who sees an attack or hears fighting, but it may also include seeing the after effects, such as blood, bruises, or other injuries. It may also mean a general state of awareness, such as watching the victim’s fear and mannerism when the abuser enters a room.

The Childhood Domestic Violence Association reports that five million children observe domestic attacks every year in the US, and there are currently 40 million adults in this country that grew up in environments where domestic violence was the norm. Considering the high number of Americans who are or will be affected, it is worth reviewing the short and long term implications for children who observe domestic abuse.

Emotional Implications

Children who are exposed to domestic violence often suffer silently, becoming fearful, anxious, and distrustful. They worry for themselves, the victim, and their siblings, causing them to miss out on typical childhood emotions like excitement and enjoyment. Life at home is agony, as these children witnesses feel emotional abandonment and isolation, even from others in the household.

Because they lack the maturity to address their complicated feelings, children experience guilt, shame, and depression. They may also become angry, both at the abuser for engaging in violence and at the victim they perceive as allowing it.

Physical Effects

The emotional implications of witnessing domestic violence manifest themselves in children physically, most often through sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Younger children may be unable to control their rage, causing injury to themselves. Other physical responses to observing domestic abuse include stomach problems, headaches, bedwetting, difficulty concentrating, and others. In a worst-case scenario, a physical effect may be actual injury when a child tries to intervene in an attack and is injured as a result.

Long-Term Impacts

Children who witness domestic violence may experience physical and emotional issues for years, long after they are no longer even in an abusive environment. Long-term effects include:

  • Learning disabilities, lower scores on IQ and standardized testing;
  • Problems with motor skills, memory, and attention;
  • Conditions similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) akin to what combat veterans face;
  • Premature aging by up to 7-10 years;
  • A propensity to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, up to 50 percent more likely than in non-abusive situations;
  • An increased potential of resorting to suicide, at up to six times more likely; and,
  • The tendency to become involved in criminal activity, with a 74 percent chance of committing a violent crime against another person after reaching adulthood.

Reach Out to a Compassionate League City Domestic Violence Lawyer

Domestic violence has significant consequences for children who witness it, but you do not have to address an abusive situation alone. Our dedicated Houston attorneys at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates have extensive experience advocating for victims, helping them obtaining restraining orders and other aspects of a domestic violence case. Please contact us today at (281) 280-0100 to schedule a consultation at our Galveston, TX office. You can also visit us online for more information about our legal services.

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